Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reading Envy 027: A Conference of Librarians

What do you call a gathering of librarians? The ALA Think Tank group in Facebook recently had this discussion (you need a Facebook account to see it).  Jenny recently attended the Association for College and Research Libraries Conference in Portland, Oregon, and asked the librarians she met what they had read lately. We decided to make this a bonus episode of the podcast. Some of the members of Jenny's family also contributed. You will probably be impressed by the wide range of what librarians read.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 027: A Conference of Librarians

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Books discussed:



Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block
January Thaw by Jess Lourey
A Corner in the Marais: Memoir of a Paris Neighborhood by Alex Karmel
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Shadows of Death by Jeanne M. Dams
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
March: Book 1 by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Ayden
March: Book 2 by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Ayden
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb
The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild
How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
Saving Turtles: A Kids' Guide to Helping Endangered Creatures by Sue Carstairs
Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Human Learning by Peter Jarvis
The Sign Painter by Davis Bunn
Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet
Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam by G. Willow Wilson
Balthazar by Lawrence Durrell
Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson
Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes
The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

Stalk Jenny online:
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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Four Months Reading Books Set in New Guinea

One of my goals this year is to read books from Oceania and Southeast Asia.  I started out in Papua New Guinea and never left! For the past four months, books from both sides of the island north of Australia, half in Indonesia and half independent, have sprinkled through my reading list.  I have decided to move on to another part of this region, perhaps Samoa. I forced myself to return the books I meant to read but hadn't started, and to officially abandon the one on my bedside table that I wasn't really into.

New Guinea is the island. Papua New Guinea is the country taking up the eastern half of the island, plus a bunch of tiny islands surrounding it.  West Papua is part of Indonesia, and has previously been known as Irian Jaya among other names.

Before this year, I had read three books set in New Guinea. One was the result of having a mother who was the missions chairperson for the church I grew up in (and we had a whole shelf of missionary narratives from people she had met over the years), two were from my research as an undergraduate in my world music class, and one was from my short-lived one-year stint in a PhD program for Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana, where we read a book on one group of islanders in my Readings in Ethnography class.


  1. Peace Child by Don Richardson
  2. Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and Song in Kaluli Expression by Steven Feld
  3. To Sing with Pigs is Human: The Concept of Person in Papua New Guinea
  4. Argonauts of the Western Pacific by Bronislaw Malinowski
The group I joined in Goodreads that has prompted all of these years of focused reading on a country or region is "The World's Literature."  I started out the year reading about one woman's solo journey across New Guinea along with others in that group, and then stayed in the jungle while they moved on to a book from Australia.  I found a book about coffee production in Papua New Guinea that was fascinating, an econoethnography of sorts. I read it while I drank PNG coffee, just for authenticity. A recent book by a journalist about the Michael Rockefeller disappearance jumped me into several related reads. The Salak and Hoffman books had some similarities because neither were interested in becoming an insider the way an anthropologist would do, but still had to make significant adaptations to succeed during the time they spent. Both have rare, adventurous spirits, similar to Rockefeller, only they lived to tell their stories.


  1. Four Corners by Kira Salak
  2. From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea  by Paige West
  3. Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman 
  4. Gardens of War: Life and Death in the New Guinea Stone Age by Robert Gardner
  5. Michael Rockefeller: New Guinea Photographs, 1961 by Kevin Brubriski
  6. The Asmat of New Guinea: the journal of Michael Clark Rockefeller, with his ethnographic notes and photos made among the Asmat people during two expeditions in 1961 by Michael C. Rockefeller
Feeling pretty saturated by non-fictional accounts and male authors, I realized I owned an eBook of a recent novel set in New Guinea, which ended up based on the early research trips of Margaret Mead. After reading that I took on two books by a man who fell in love with the people of New Guinea, perhaps more at home among them than his friends in New York. One very early anthropological study was followed by one written in the 21st century (also about other similar societies), and the last book I read from New Guinea was the story of a plane crash during World War II.


  1. Euphoria by Lily King
  2. Secret Places: My Life in New York and New Guinea by Tobias Schneebaum 
  3. Where the Spirits Dwell: An Odyssey in the Jungle of New Guinea by Tobias Schneebaum
  4. Growing Up in New Guinea by Margaret Mead
  5. The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond
  6. Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
Along with the books I DID read are a bunch I didn't.  There are numerous missionary accounts, more books related to Margaret Mead's research and the Rockefeller story, and a novel about a teacher who saves a tribe with Dickens (I started it and it was pretty awful so I quit.)

What I never found - books about New Guinea written by New Guineans. Perhaps that will happen one day.

I also tried a few recipes that came from New Guinea, or attempted replicas thereof.  I believe in immersive reading! Adding the smells, the tastes, the sounds to a reading experience. This is harder to do with New Guinea since so many of the people there have diets composed of what they can grow and harvest. For West Papuans this is sago, harvested from trees and made into balls, supplemented by seafood or grubs depending on the location of the particular people group. For Papua New Guineans, the diet is largely sweet potato and banana, with protein added whenever possible, usually pork (a rare luxury.) The recipes I considered live on a Pinterest board, and some of those are still to come, from other regions of Oceania.

Here is a list of what I actually made:
  1. Banana pancakes (recipe; read more on JennyBakes)
  2. Baroida Coffee from Counter Culture (single origin beans from PNG)
  3. Saksak (tapioca banana dumplings, similar to a sweet sago ball) - recipe
  4. Autumnal Veggies in Spiced Coconut Milk (recipe)
Considering how many times fried bananas came up in the Salak (particularly in moments of stress), I am surprised I never made any.